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Amazon Synod: Zenit Translation of Final Document, Chapter Four

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Here is the fourth installment of Zenit’s English translation of the Final Document and Voting on the Final Document of the Synod of Bishops handed to the Holy Father Francis, at the end of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian Region (October 6-17, 2019) on the theme: “Amazonia: New Pathways for the Church and for An Integral Ecology”:

This installment includes the fourth chapter of the final synod document. Zenit will publish the remainder of the text in the following days. We will publish the official Vatican English version when it is available.




“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10)

  1. Our planet is a gift of God, but we also know that we are living the urgency to act in the face of an unprecedented socio-environmental crisis. To respond adequately we need an ecological conversion. Therefore, as Amazonian Church, faced with increasing aggression to our biome, threatened with its disappearance with tremendous consequences for our planet, we set off inspired by the proposal of an integral ecology. We acknowledge the wounds caused by the human being in our territory; we want to learn from our brothers and sisters of the native peoples, in a dialogue of knowledge, the challenge to give new answers, seeking models of just and solidary development. We want to look after our “common home” in Amazonia and we propose new ways to do so.

Towards an integral ecology from the encyclical Laudato Si’

a. Threats against the Amazonian biome and its peoples

66. God has given us the earth as gift and as task, to look after it and answer for it; we are not its owners. Integral ecology has its foundation in the fact that “everything is intimately related” (LS 16). Therefore, ecology and social justice are intrinsically united (cf. LDS 137). With integral ecology a new paradigm of justice emerges, given that “a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach, which must integrate justice in the discussions on the environment, to listen both to the cry of the earth as well as the cry of the poor” (LS 49). Thus integral ecology connects the exercise of the care of nature with that of justice for the most impoverished and underprivileged of the earth, that are God’s preferred option in revealed history.

  1. It is urgent that we confront the unlimited exploitation of the “common home” and of its inhabitants. One of the principal causes of destruction in Amazonia is the predatory extractive activity, which responds to the logic of avarice, proper of the prevailing technocratic paradigm (LS 101). In face of the urgent situation of the planet and of Amazonia, integral ecology is not one more way the Church can choose in face of the future in this territory; it is the only way possible, as there is no other viable path to save the region. The depredation of the territory is accompanied by the shedding of innocent blood and of the criminalization of the defenders of Amazonia.
  1. The Church is part of an international solidarity that must foster and recognize the central role of the Amazonian biome for the equilibrium of the planet’s climate; it encourages the international community to make new economic resources available for its protection and the promotion of a model of just and solidary development, with the leadership and direct participation of the local communities and the native peoples in all the phases, from the planning to the implementation, strengthening also the tools already developed by the March convention on climate change.
  2. It is scandalous that leaders and even communities are criminalized for the sole fact of claiming their own rights. In all the Amazonian countries there are laws that recognize human rights, especially those of the indigenous peoples. In the last years, the (Amazonian) region has lived complex transformations, where the communities’ human rights have been impacted by norms, public policies and practices focused primarily in the enlargement of the extractive frontiers of natural resources and in the development of mega infrastructure projects, which exert pressures on the indigenous ancestral territories. According to the same report, this is accompanied by a grave situation of impunity in the region in regard to violations of human rights and barriers to obtaining justice (CIDH/OAS Report, Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of Pan-Amazonia. 5 and 188. Sept. 2019).
  1. For Christians, interest, and concern for the promotion and respect of human life, both individual as well as collective, isn’t optional. The human being is created in the image and likeness of God the Creator, and his dignity is inviolable. Therefore, the defense and promotion of human rights is not merely a political duty or social task, but also and above all an exigency of faith. Perhaps we won’t be able to modify immediately the prevailing model of destructive and extractive development; however, we do have the need to know and make clear, where we stand? Whose side are we on? What perspective do we assume? How do we transmit the political and ethical dimensions of our word of faith and life? For this reason: a) we denounce the violation of human rights and extractive destruction; b) we assume and support disinvestment campaigns of extractive companies related to Amazonia’s socio-ecological harm, beginning with our own ecclesial institutions and also in alliance with other Churches; c) we call for a radical energetic transition and a search for alternatives: “Civilization requires energy, but the use of energy must not destroy the civilization!” (Pope Francis, Address to the Participants in the Conference “Energetic Transition and Care of the Common Home,” June 9, 2018). We propose to develop training programs on the care of the “common home,” which must be designed for pastoral agents and the rest of the faithful, open to the whole community, in “an effort of awareness-raising of the population” (LS 214)

b. The challenge of new models of just, solidary and sustainable development.

71. We see that the human being’s intervention has lost its “friendly” character, to assume a voracious and predatory attitude that tends to squeeze the reality to the extenuation of all the available natural resources. “The technocratic paradigm tends to exert its control over the economy and politics” (LS 109). To counteract this, which gravely harms life, it’s necessary to seek alternative economic models, more sustainable, friendly to nature, with a solid “spiritual sustenance.” Therefore, together with the Amazonian people, we request that States cease considering Amazonia as an inexhaustible larder (cf. Fr PM). We would like them to develop investment policies that have as a condition for any intervention, the fulfilment of high social and environmental standards and the fundamental principle of the preservation of Amazonia. In this connection, it is necessary that they have the participation of organized Indigenous Peoples, of other Amazonian communities and of the different scientific institutions that are already proposing standing forest-harvesting models. The new paradigm of sustainable development must be socially inclusive, combining scientific and traditional knowledge to empower the traditional and indigenous communities, in their majority women, and to have those technologies serve the wellbeing and protection of the forests.

72. Therefore, it’s about discussing the real value that any economic or extractive activity has, that is, the value that it contributes and returns to the earth and to the society, considering the wealth that it extracts from them and their socio-ecological consequences. Many extractive activities, such as large-scale mining, particularly the illegal, diminish substantially the value of Amazonian life. In fact, they tear the life of the peoples and the common goods of the earth, concentrating economic and political power in the hands of a few. Worse yet, many of these destructive projects are carried out in the name of progress and are supported — or permitted — by local, national and foreign governments.

  1. Together with the Amazonian peoples (Cf. LS 183) and their horizon of “good living,” to call ourselves to an individual and communal ecological conversion and a development model in which commercial criteria are not above the environmental criteria and human rights. We wish to support a culture of peace and respect — not of violence and abuse — and an economy centered on the person, which also cares for nature. Therefore, we propose to generate alternatives of integral ecological development from the cosmo-visions that are designed in the communities, rescuing ancestral wisdom. We support projects that propose a solidary and sustainable, circular and ecological economy, both at the local and international levels, at the level of research and in the field of action, in formal and informal sectors. In this line, it would be appropriate to support and promote experiences of cooperatives of bio-production, of forest reserves and sustainable consumption. The future of Amazonia is in the hands of us all, but it depends primarily on our abandoning immediately the present model, which destroys the forest, does not bring wellbeing, and puts in danger this immense natural treasure and its guardians.

Church that looks after the “common home” in Amazonia

a. The socio-environmental dimension of evangelization

74. It is up to all of us to be guardians of God’s work. The protagonists of the care, protection and defense of peoples’ rights and nature’s rights in this region are the Amazonian communities themselves. They are the agents of their own destiny, of their own mission. In this scenario, the role of the Church is that of all. They expressed clearly that they want the Church to accompany them, to walk with them, but that it not impose on them a particular way of being, a specific way of development that has little to do with their cultures, traditions, and spiritualities. They know how to look after Amazonia, how to love and protect it; what they need is for the Church to support them.

75. The Church’s function is to strengthen that capacity of support and participation. So we propose a formation that takes into account the quality of the ethical and spiritual life of people from an integral vision. The Church must attend primordially the communities affected by socio-environmental damages. Continuing with the Latin American ecclesial tradition, in which figures such as Saint Jose de Anchieta, Bartolome de las Casas, the Paraguayan martyrs that died in Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil) Roque Gonzalez, Saint Alfonso Rodriguez and Saint Juan del Castillo, among others, taught us that the defense of the native peoples of this Continent is intrinsically linked with faith in Jesus Christ and His Good News. Today we must form pastoral agents and ordained ministers with socio-environmental sensibility. We want a Church that sails inland and begins her journey through Amazonia, promoting a lifestyle in harmony with the territory, and at the same time with the “good living” of those that dwell there.

76. The Church acknowledges the wisdom of the Amazonian peoples about bio-diversity, a traditional wisdom that is a living process and always on the go. The theft of that knowledge is bio-piracy, a form of violence against those populations. The Church must help to preserve and maintain this knowledge and the innovations and practices of the populations, respecting the sovereignty of the countries and their laws, which regulate access to genetic resources and the associated traditional knowledge. In so far as possible, she must help those populations to guarantee the distribution of the benefits from the use of that knowledge, of the innovations and practices in a sustainable and inclusive model of development.

77. Needed urgently are energy policies that succeed in reducing drastically the emission of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other gases related to climate change. New clean energies will help to promote health. All companies must establish monitoring systems of the chain of supply to guarantee that the production they buy, create and sell, is produced in a social manner and environmentally sustainable. Moreover, “the access to potable and safe water is a basic, fundamental and universal human right, because it determines the survival of persons and, therefore, is the condition for the exercise of the rest of the human rights.” (LS 30). This right is recognized by the United Nations (2010). We need to work jointly so that the fundamental right of access to clean water is respected in the territory.

78. The Church opts for the defense of life, of the earth, of the native Amazonian cultures. This would imply accompanying the Amazonia people s in the registration, systematization, and diffusion of data and information on their territories and the juridical situation of the same. We want to prioritize the incidence and accompaniment to obtain the demarcation of lands, especially that of the PIACI (Hispanophone America) or PIAV (Lusophone America). We encourage States to comply with the Constitutional obligations on these subjects, including the right of access to water.

79. The Social Doctrine of the Church, which for a long time has addressed the ecological topic, is enriched today with a look more of the whole, which embraces the relationship between the Amazonian peoples and their territories, always in dialogue with their ancestral knowledge and wisdom. For example, recognizing the way that native peoples relate to one another and protect their territories, as an indispensable reference for our conversion to an integral ecology. In this light, we want to create ministries for the care of the “common home” in Amazonia that have, as their function, to look after the territory and the waters together with the indigenous communities, and a ministry of hospitality for those that are displaced from their territories to the cities.

b. A poor Church, with and for the poor from the vulnerable peripheries

  1. We reaffirm our commitment to defend life in its integrality from its conception to its decline and the dignity of all persons. The Church has been and is next to the indigenous communities to safeguard the right to have their own tranquil life, respecting the values of their traditions, customs and cultures, the preservation of the rivers and forests, which are sacred areas, source of life and wisdom. We support the efforts of the many that defend life courageously in all its forms and stages. Our pastoral service constitutes a service to the full life of the indigenous peoples, which obliges us to proclaim Jesus Christ and the Good News of the Kingdom of God, to put a stop to situations of sin, structures of death, violence and internal and external injustices and to promote inter-cultural, inter-religious and ecumenical dialogue.

New paths for the promotion of integral ecology

a. Prophetic challenge and message of hope to the whole Church and the whole world

81. The defense of Amazonia’s life and of its peoples requires a profound personal, social and structural conversion. The Church is included in this call to unlearn, to learn and to re-learn, to thus overcome any tendency to colonizing models that have caused damage in the past. In this connection, it’s important that we be aware of the strength of neo-colonialism, which is present in our daily decisions and the prevailing model of development, which is expressed in the growing model of monoculture agriculture, or forms of transport and the imaginary of wellbeing from the consumption we live in the society and which has direct and indirect implications in Amazonia. In face of this — a global horizon –, listening also to the voices of Sister Churches, we want to embrace a spirituality of integral ecology, in order to promote the care of creation. To achieve this, we must be a much more participatory and inclusive community of missionary disciples.

82. We propose to define ecological sin as an action or omission against God, against our neighbor, the community and the environment. It is a sin against the future generations and is manifested in acts and habits of contamination and destruction of the harmony of the environment, a transgression of the principle of inter-dependence and rupture of the solidarity networks between creatures (Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 340-344) and against the virtue of justice. We also propose to create ministries at the parish level and in each ecclesiastical jurisdiction, which have as their functions, among other things, the care of the territory and of the waters, as well as the promotion of the encyclical Laudato Si’. To assume the pastoral, educational program and the impact of the Encyclical Laudato Si’, in its chapters V and VI, at all levels and structures of the Church.

83. By way of repairing the ecological debt that countries have with Amazonia, we propose the creation of a global fund to cover part of the budgets of the communities present in Amazonia, which promote its integral and self-sustainable development and thus protect them also from the predatory anxiety of wanting to extract its natural resources on the part of national and multi-national companies.

84. Adopt responsible habits that respect and appreciate the peoples of the Amazon, their traditions and wisdom, protecting the earth and changing our culture of excessive consumption, the production of solid residues, stimulating re-use and recycling. We must reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and the use of plastics, changing our eating habits (excess of consumption of meat and fish/seafood, with more sober lifestyles. To be actively committed in the planting of trees seeking sustainable alternatives in agriculture, energy, and mobility, which respect the rights of nature and of the people. Promote education in integral ecology at all levels, promote new economic models and initiatives that promote a quality of sustainable life.

b. Amazonian Socio-Pastoral Observatory

  1. Create a pastoral socio-environmental Observatory, strengthening the fight in defense of life. Carry out a diagnosis of the territory and of its socio-environmental conflicts in each local and regional Church, to be able to assume a position, take decisions and defend the rights of the most vulnerable. The Observatory would work in alliance with CELAM, CLAR, Caritas, REPAM, the national Episcopates, the local Churches, the Catholic Universities, the CIDH, other non-ecclesial actors in the Continent and representatives of the indigenous peoples. Likewise, we ask that in the Dicastery for the Service of Integral Human Development, an Amazonian office is created that is in relationship with this Observatory and the rest of the local Amazonian institutions.

ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester

Full Document in Spanish

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